When he's not theorizing about chatting with aliens over the internet, computer science visionary Vint Cerf maintains a day job at Google as a vice president and the company's chief internet evangelist. The "father of the internet" was recently asked about Google's stance on real-name authentication, a system that requires users to publicly go by their proper name on the internet. Thus far Google has gently pushed users to display their real name on Google+ and the company's other services, but it hasn't backed away from traditional usernames / pseudonyms, either. Cerf thinks that's the right approach. "Using real names is useful," he said in a recent interview with Reuters. "But I don't think it should be forced on people, and I don't think we do." That's a slightly different strategy than the one Facebook has pursued; the world's leading social network has gone so far as to defend its real-name-only policy in court.
"Anonymity and pseudonymity are perfectly reasonable under some situations," Cerf said, citing oppressive, violent regimes like Syria as an example where real names could put individuals in jeopardy. Even so, Cef believes that authentication brings an inherent sense of trust to online communications. "What I'm looking for is not that we shut down anonymity, but rather that we offer an option when needed that can strongly authenticate who the parties are."